A small resort stretching along 3 km of the highway, Máncora is parallel to a long, attractive, sandy beach with safe bathing. It is a popular stop-off for travellers on the Peru-Ecuador route, even more so with Argentines and young limeños who arrive at weekends and holiday times. Consequently it has a very lively feel with numerous bars and music playing all night. The water here is warm enough for bathing and the town has some of the friendliest local surfers on the planet. Surfing is best November to March (boards and suits can be hired from several places along the southern blocks of Avenida Piura, US$1.50 each per hour). This stretch of coast is famous for its excellent mero (grouper).
The Pan-American Highway runs through the centre of town and is the main street, called Avenida Piura. Most of the tourist facilities are south of the town centre and artesanía stalls line the avenue between the centre and south end. At peak times youngsters spill out from the concentration of bars bringing traffic to a complete standstill. At the north end of town the beach is inaccessible and dirty, and this is not a safe area. South of Máncora along the coastal road (old Pan-American Highway) are some excellent beaches that are being developed, for example Las Pocitas, a resort ideal for families, or just for relaxing, and Vichayito.
Fresh water is piped into the area, producing the incongruous but welcome sight of green lawns and lush gardens between the sea and desert cliffs. There is a line of rocks parallel to the beach, which form interesting bathing pools at low tide, though these can be dangerous at high tide.
At Las Arenas resort, 4 km south of Máncora, the beach is unspoilt, with armies of small crabs and abundant bird life, including frigates and masked and brown pelicans.
East of Máncora are hot mud baths (baños de barro), which are nice after a day in the surf. There is no infrastructure, but the landscape, desert foothills and shrub lands, is beautiful. The access is north of town, at Km 1168, from where you head for Quebrada Fernández. Beyond is El Angolo game reserve, which extends as far south as the Río Chira. Take a mototaxi from Máncora, 20 minutes, and pay US$5.75 for the return journey and an hour’s wait while you bathe....
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